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Boeing Thanks S.C. Congressmen for Supporting Company’s Biggest Subsidizer

The Boeing Co. is feeling the love for South Carolina’s congressional delegation – most of the delegation members anyway.

On Friday, Boeing ran a full-page color ad in The State newspaper – not an inexpensive outlay but chump change for the multibillion-dollar multinational corporation – thanking five delegation members by name for supporting the company’s biggest government subsidizer.

That’s the U.S. Export-Import Bank.

Known as Ex-Im, it provides federally backed loans and loan guarantees to foreign buyers of American products who have trouble obtaining conventional private financing.

Boeing has been a chief beneficiary of Ex-Im, to the tune of billions of dollars in sales to foreign airlines and the like.

And, with its new 787 Dreamliner assembly plant in North Charleston, the defense and aerospace giant is poised to continue reaping benefits from the Export-Import Bank.

The agency was created in the Depression era. Typically, Congress has renewed Ex-Im’s operating charter will little fanfare over the years.

But not this time.

With the charter set to expire at the end of this month, U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., and other free market advocates led a fight against renewing Ex-Im.

They did not succeed. By a 78-20 vote, the U.S. Senate early Tuesday evening re-upped Ex-Im’s charter through the 2014 federal fiscal year after the U.S. House voted to do so last week.

President Barack Obama is expected to sign the renewal into law soon.

Two days after the House vote – a lopsided 330-93 to continue Ex-Im and incrementally increase its lending limits – Boeing went with its ad.

It said, without mentioning party affiliation, the company “salutes” U.S. Rep. James Clyburn, a Democrat; and Republican U.S. Reps. Trey Gowdy, Tim Scott and Joe Wilson of South Carolina, “who showed strong support for the reauthorization of financing the Export-Import Bank.”

The ad also thanked U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. and an Ex-Im supporter, “for his steady leadership in helping to do what is right for America’s exporters.”

“The reauthorization of the Ex-Im bank,” the ad concluded, “ensures Boeing can continue manufacturing one of the world’s best airplanes in one of the country’s most vital economic hubs – South Carolina. What’s good for the state’s economy is good for the American economy.”

Several weeks ago, the S.C. General Assembly passed a resolution urging the state’s congressional delegation to support the reauthorization of Ex-Im.

That’s the same Legislature, more or less, that hurriedly – and with little debate or prior notice – approved an incentives package for Boeing’s 787 plant in a rare special session in October 2009. Using conservative calculations, The Nerve valued the package and related subsidies at $500 million.

The Senate approved the resolution memorializing the state’s congressional delegation on Ex-Im overwhelmingly, 32-2. The House OK’d it without taking a roll call vote on the measure, S. 1356.

“I didn’t have enough understanding (of Ex-Im) to tell Congress how to vote on it,” says Sen. Lee Bright, R-Spartanburg and one of the two senators who voted against the resolution.

Bright says the prevailing sentiment among senators when the measure came up for a vote was “we’d upset Boeing” if they opposed it. “Somebody came up to me afterward and said, ‘I can’t believe you voted against Boeing,’” Bright says. “It was a Republican senator but I forget which one.”

Sen. Tom Davis, R-Beaufort and an opponent of government subsidies, was the other senator who sided against the pro-Export-Import Bank message to the Palmetto State’s members of Congress.

(Footnote: Near as The Nerve can tell, Boeing did not run an ad thanking the many members of the Legislature who supported the resolution.)

Reach Ward at (803) 254-4411 or eric@thenerve.org.

Economic Development General Assembly Incentives Legislation

U.S. Rep. James Clyburn U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham U.S. Export-Import Bank U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint Boeing S.C. General Assembly U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson Sen. Tom Davis Sen. Lee Bright U.S. Rep. Tim Scott